Castroneves second for seventh time Panther has winning formula at Kentucky Public to vote for Firestone “Tire”-rific move of the race Drivers reap post-race awards
1. Castroneves second for seventh time: Helio Castroneves thought he was on the way to his first victory of the season and 13th of his career as he paced the field the final 5½ laps Aug. 9 at Kentucky Speedway. But the attempt to stretch a 22-gallon load of ethanol 57 trips around the 1.5-mile oval was just short, and Castroneves was awarded the 19th runner-up spot of his career.
"When I was going into Turn 3, I thought, 'I got it!' Like I'm finally going to win this race, or a race," Castroneves said. "And all of a sudden I'm coming out of Turn 4 and the car just coughed. My reaction at that time, it was like 'No!' But I need to still finish the race. I didn't want the car to stop right away. I didn't know how many cars were behind Dixon and Marco (Andretti). I just wanted to finish the race as high as I could."
That would be second - for the seventh time this season.
"It's funny. Scott Dixon says to me, 'Man, every time I win, you finish second.' I say, 'Well, every time I finish second, you finish first. We've got to change that. You've got to finish behind a little bit and let me win,' '' said Castroneves, who trails Dixon by 78 points with three races remaining.
Actually, of Dixon's series record-tying six victories, Castroneves has placed second at Texas Motor Speedway and Edmonton City Centre Airport. That's 20 points. Dixon also has gained points on Castroneves with victories at Homestead-Miami Speedway (+3 positions; 18 points), the 92nd Indianapolis 500 (+3; 18 points) and Nashville Superspeedway (+2; 15 points).
In the other four races in which Castroneves has been runner-up, he's gained points on Dixon: Twenty positions at St. Petersburg (28 points), +1 at Twin Ring Motegi (5 points) and +1 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Dixon, who is 23 laps led shy of breaking Tony Kanaan's 2004 series record, has gained 15 points for being the race lap leader (three bonus points per race). Both he and Castroneves (312 laps led) have led in nine races.
"Obviously, with a 78‑point lead now, I think it's pretty healthy, but anything can happen," Dixon said after visiting Victory Circle at Kentucky Speedway for the first time. "Helio could quite easily have gained on us and made it more of a fight.
"With Sonoma and Chicago and Belle Isle, tracks that those guys are very good at as well, we are going to make sure we don't lose too many points. But it would be nice to gain a couple on Helio in Sonoma and maybe we only need 82 points or something to have it sewn up (heading to Chicagoland Speedway on Sept. 7). That would be nice, but in reality, I think we'll be racing almost till the last race."
2. Panther has winning formula at Kentucky: Panther Racing followed a formula it used at Kentucky Speedway last season with Hideki Mutoh to reinvigorate Dillon Battistini's 2008 Firestone Indy Lights campaign.
Just as it did with Mutoh in the days before the 2007 race at Kentucky Speedway, the team took Battistini to the 1.5-mile oval to test Vitor Meira's IndyCar Series car.
And just like 2007, when Mutoh claimed the win at Kentucky, the plan paid off as the Englishman kept his hopes of winning the Firestone Firehawk Cup alive with his series-best fourth win of the season.
"It's funny how history repeats itself," Battistini said. "(This win) means a hell of a lot after the streak I've just had, which I don't really feel was much. But it's great to be back in the top three in the championship. I really hope I can hang on to that."
Battistini started fourth in his No. 15 National Guard Delphi race car in the fourth position, but was battling for the lead on the first lap. He took the lead on Lap 2 and never relinquished it.
“I knew it was going to be hard to pass on this track. I knew there was a chance at getting (pole winner Raphael Matos) at the start, and luckily I pulled that off and was able to hang on,” Battistini said of his opening lap move. “I still had to fight off some really strong competition. Luckily, we were strong enough to hang on to the lead.”
The win vaulted him up three spots in the championship standings into a tie for third with Arie Luyendyk Jr., 57 points back of leader Richard Antinucci.
“It feels good to make up some ground in the standings after the last few races,” said Battistini, who had finished outside the top-10 in the five previous races. “We still have three races to make up points. We are due for a strong showing on a road course, and after that is another oval, so I feel good about our chances to make up some points.”
3. Public to vote for Firestone “Tire”-rific move of the race: Fans will have the ultimate say in who receives a $10,000 race bonus from Firestone. After each IndyCar Series race, Firestone executives pick three “Tire”-rific Moves of the Race, on-track moves where the drivers had to rely on their Firestone Firehawk tires. Fans can vote for the winner at www.indycar.com.
Paul Tracy won the fans’ vote from the race at Edmonton and was awarded $10,000.
From the Rexall Edmonton Indy, fans can choose from:
Scott Dixon and his crew for a quick pit stop that put him in position for the win. Vitor Meira for a pair of thread-the-needle passes, including one for the lead on Lap 45. Ryan Hunter-Reay for making a great save after tire contact with Tony Kanaan and continuing to finish ninth..
In past seasons, Firestone has awarded the bonus to the driver who led the lap that corresponded to the total number of races in IndyCar Series history.
4. Drivers reap post-race awards: Scott Dixon reaped the benefits from winning the Meijer Indy 300. Dixon was presented an IndyCar Series timepiece from Ritmo Mundo, the official timepiece of the IndyCar Series. Ritmo Mundo presents a timepiece to the winner of each IndyCar Series event in 2008. Dixon also collected the $10,000 PEAK Motor Oil Pole Award presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts, the $5,000 DirecTV Crystal Clear Moment of the Race and $1,000 from Bosch.
Danica Patrick won the $2,500 Lincoln Welders Hard Charger Award for being the race leader who started furthest back, and Vitor Meira collected the $2,000 XTrac Award.
The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with the PEAK Antifreeze and Motor Oil Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma County Aug. 24 at Infineon Raceway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 5:30 p.m. (EDT) by ESPN2. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPNDeportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and indycar.com. The 2008 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with a doubleheader Aug. 23-24 at Infineon Raceway. The races will air at 5 p.m. Aug. 28 on ESPN2. The Kentucky 100 will air at 2 p.m. Aug. 14 on ESPN2.